Side Hustle: Virtual Assistant

Use Your Skills To Stick It To Your Old Boss!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello again and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club!  I hope you had a terrific holiday season and are rested and refreshed.  Yeah, right!  Anyway, this week I thought I would discuss a Side Hustle that many of you may be interested in.  Becoming a Virtual Assistant.

is09ao1z3I have decided, at least for the first few postings of this year, to focus entirely on Side Hustle jobs.  We all need to generate some extra income to pay off those Christmas bills.  When I first started looking into Side Hustle jobs, I was surprised to find the position of Virtual Assistant.

I am going to be honest.  I don’t come from a Secretarial, pardon me, Administrative Assistant background.  Gotta be PC.  When I was moved onto the Tech Support Desk, I was terrified.  I had to try to help the Secretaries who would call with fubared legal documents.  Needless to say, I had a pretty steep learning curve before I became relatively competent in my job.

That said, I was surprised to find out the Virtual Assistant position was actually a “thing”.  Since this is really not my area of expertise, I have decided to defer to Joanne Munro, who has an excellent website with a complete rundown on how to become a Virtual Assistant.

The VA Handbook takes you through how to set up your business, create your website (for FREE at, and take care of all of the legal stuff needed to get your VA business off the ground.  It’s really an excellent resource and I highly recommend that you check it out.  However, keep in mind that Joanne is in the UK, so some of the information may be related to that region.

However, if you are someone like me who was downsized, becoming a VA might be a great way to start a new career and flip the bird to your old company at the same time!

Joanne does mention that Networking is the key to building your VA business.  I would think that Social Media would be an excellent way to spread the word about your budding Side Hustle.  Spreading the word on Facebook about your VA business could net you some solid leads.

Happy typistAlso, I would reach out to your friends at your old job.  See if they have heard about anyone who is in need of additional secretarial help outside of the office or after hours.  Catching up with them over lunch might be your key to future clients!  Also, getting in touch with contacts you may have with your old company’s clients is a good way to capitalize on your time there.

Don’t forget about LinkedIn.  I know that you probably blitzed all of your LinkedIn contacts after you were let go from your previous job.  Do it again, but this time keep in mind your new objective.  Promoting your fledgling business and mining for prospective new clients.

I know that our firm had one secretary who worked the afternoon shift.  She was there to help attorneys who had after-hours work that needed to be done.  You may want to consider specializing in after-hours availability.  I would think if you get contracted by a couple of companies as an after-hours Virtual Assistant, you can pretty much write your own ticket.  Again, not speaking from experience, but I would think that it would make a lot of sense.

is09ao1ykThat said, keep in mind what you may be letting yourself in for as an after-hours VA.  When the law firm I worked for had a “Closing”, it could run all night.  That may be a can of worms you do not want to open.  However, if you can find a company that needs after-hours support, it might be steady work without the threat of an “all-nighter”.

I hope this article has encouraged you to venture out on your own as a successful Virtual Assistant.  After all, what better way to stick it to your old employer than by using the skills you perfected to become a successful VA?!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Side Hustle: Shipt

A Different Wrinkle In Driving Income!

Caucasian man standing in produce section of grocery store
Become A Professional Shopper

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club!  Today I am going to talk about a new side hustle I am exploring.  Becoming a Professional Shopper with Shipt.  I am really looking forward to it.

Food delivery services are one of the fastest growing businesses out there.  After a long day working the 9 to 5 grind, or in our case, pounding the virtual pavement, wouldn’t it be great to have your groceries delivered to you?  The answer for many people is a resounding, “YES”!

So far, I haven’t actually done any shopping for Shipt, but I have been approved, and I will be having my orientation soon.  Shipt claims you can make between $15-$25 per hour driving for them, by shopping and delivering groceries.  It appears to be like Uber for food.

The customer uses the Shipt App (available on Google Play or iTunes) to pick out their groceries, then a Shopper is pinged with the list.  The Shopper decides whether he or she can pick up the groceries and deliver them to the customer within the allotted time.  Pretty neat, actually.

There are many reasons I am looking forward to driving for Shipt.  The increase in pay will be nice, but the main reason for me will be the decrease in miles, on me and my car.  Recently, I drove a guy to Detroit Metro Airport from the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.  It was a nice fare, mainly because I had to do some creative driving to get around the traffic caused by Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Eastern Market in Detroit.  However, I got him to the airport in plenty of time.

I got pinged right away for a pickup and drove to the “Arrivals” area at the North Terminal.  My riders were two college girls wearing Maryland sweatshirts.  Of course, they were visiting Ann Arbor to watch their Terrapins get destroyed by the Wolverine Juggernaut. This was a half an hour drive in the wrong direction.  By the time I got home, I had put 125 miles on my car and I yelled “ENOUGH”!  I had already applied to drive with Shipt and I decided to take a couple of days off to work on my car.  I needed to replace a missing hubcap, clean it out, clean all the windows, etc.

The application process with Shipt seems to move along fairly quickly.  Hopefully, after my orientation, I’ll be able to start driving right away.  Once you’re approved, there is a Shopper Portal where you can learn everything you need to know (hopefully) before you start to shop.

The main attraction for me is being able to drive close to home and keep down the miles on my car.  I will be shopping at my local Meijer store, which is about 3 miles from my house.  With the upcoming holidays, there should be no shortage of people who need food deliveries.

Even though Shipt is only available in the following states (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) there may be other grocery delivery services available in your area.  A quick search on the web didn’t come up with anything, but if you check with your local grocery store, they may use a similar service.  Just make sure it is a large chain grocery store, like Kroger, Publix, Winn Dixie, etc.  I would think larger stores like these would be the only ones to offer these types of services.

That’s all for now.  After I hit the road and get familiar with how it all works, I’ll follow up with a “Tips & Tricks” article like I did with Uber and Lyft.  Wish me luck!

P.S.: My biggest fear is I will become so good at grocery shopping my wife saddle me with all of the shopping!  Oh well, one of the hazards of the job I suppose!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


Britney does this, you should too!

Consider Keeping A Journal Or Diary

By Jerry Lambert

Hi and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club!  This week, I have decided to write about something I have been doing since I was laid off from my job.  This activity is essential to organizing your thoughts, working on your goals, and just plain venting.

I am talking about Journaling, or keeping a Diary.  When most people hear the word “Diary”, they think about Britney, writing about her latest crush and which girls at school are so mean!  Yes, I’m talking about you, Tiffany!

Keeping a Diary or “Journaling” has come a long way since you ladies kept one in high school.  It is now a widely accepted practice among business people, who want to organize their thoughts, create fresh ideas, and figure out what steps to take next.  It might even change your life!

I kept a Journal on and off during my “Employable” years.  Every now and then, when an important life event would come up, I would make an entry.  However, on the morning after I was let go from my job, I fired up my PC and wrote some blistering commentary on fairness, loyalty, and the lack of both in the business world.  I also wrote some choice words about the people I felt were responsible for the layoffs, and which biblical plagues should descend upon them!  Like I said, venting!

Once I got all of that out of my system (mostly), I decided to start Journaling every day.  This helped me to search (in vain) for a job where they would appreciate my talents, hire me on the spot, and give me a big raise!  Problem solved!!  Yeah, we all know how that worked out!  However, Journaling really has helped me to organize my thoughts and figure out my next move.  I’m sure it will help you as well.

What follows are some suggestions on how to get started, based on what I have learned on my own, and what I have learned about Journaling from other sources.

Start by figuring out how you are going to Journal. “Old School”, with a spiral notebook, or joining the digital age by using Journaling Software.  Being a techie guy, I use iDailyDiary to record my daily thoughts.  It is a free download from  There are also many other Journaling options, such as Microsoft’s OneNote, and online Journaling sites, such as Penzu, JRNL, LiveJournal, and others.  These sites give you the added benefit of being able to record your thoughts on your PC, tablet, or phone.  Also, you don’t have to worry about losing all of your entries if you misplace your spiral notebook or your PC blows up.  They are all safely stored online.

You may also want to consider having more than one Diary going at a time. This is very helpful if you want to have one Diary for recording daily events, writing down ideas, and venting.  Plus another Diary for posterity. Sharing your infinite wisdom, thoughts about current events, and why the college football playoff system STILL sucks!!

Getting started. Most people are terrified of a blank page, or screen in my case.  To make it easy on yourself, just write down what you did yesterday.  You may want to put a prompt at the top of each page to help you remember.

Mine says:

Weight Status (2 years ago, I lost 40 pounds so I keep close tabs on my weight)
Health / Workout Status
Morning Driving
Before / After Lunch
Evening Driving
Anything Else
Top 10 Goals
Scripture of the Day

As you write about the previous day, you may remember a task you weren’t able to check off on your to do list. Put 3 asterisks (or any special character) at the start of that sentence.  ***You see how it makes the sentence easier to spot on the page!  You will appreciate that when you proceed to the next step.

Weekly Review. Writing down all your thoughts is great, but what if you actually need to do something with them?  I suggest you take about half an hour at the end of each week, to review the entries for that week.  Make special note of any sentences with special characters that will require further action.

At first, you may find you won’t be able to write down more than a few lines of text.  However, as you get used to putting your thoughts down on paper or PC, you will find you eventually get into “The Flow”.  The words will just start to pour out of you onto the Journal of your choice.

An example of why this is a good practice.  I have been using iDailyDiary for quite a while now, but I haven’t been happy with the fact that I have to back up the entries myself.  Researching this article has inspired me to start using JRNL to record my daily Journal entries.  I never would have thought to do this, if I wasn’t writing this article about Journaling, and the idea to write the article came to me while writing in my Journal!

I hope this article inspires you to take up the habit of Journaling.  Getting your thoughts down on paper or in digital bits is always a good thing.  Whether they be good or bad, it’s always good to get them out of your system.  It is cathartic.  Plus, I have found that new ideas will often occur to you that you haven’t considered before.  It’s a great way to tap into the universe of new ideas.

Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Uber & Lyft Driving Tips

What to know before hitting the road for your first time!

Driver eating sandwich on limousine
What To Know Before Hitting The Road

By Jerry Lambert

As I mentioned in my previous article regarding Uber & Lyft, this is a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” I have picked up in my past year as a driver.  These tips are meant to show you the ropes, if you decide to become a driver.  I drive in the Detroit Metro Area.  You may find that some of the items listed here are not a problem in your neck of the woods.  Instead, you may run into an entirely different set of issues where you drive.  If you do, please contact me ( and I’ll share them with the rest of our readers!

I am assuming that you have already signed up with Uber and / or Lyft and you are now driving or will be driving in the near future.  You already know that you have to be at least 21 years old (not a problem for our age group) and your car has to be 10 years old or less for Uber and 12 years old or less for Lyft (this number may vary by city).  Now for the list.

Driving Times: As I mentioned in my previous article, I like to drive the morning and evening rush hours.  From 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm.  Outside of the late night bar pickups, this is your best shot at making some good money.

Surge & Prime Time: These are the Supply and Demand features that Uber and Lyft use to pay their drivers more during peak driving times.  It is my understanding that 100% of these bonuses go directly to the drivers.  It is a carrot to get more drivers out on the road during busy times.

The Uber and Lyft apps: As you may know by now, there are two apps for Uber and one app for Lyft.  Lyft choses to combine their Driver and Rider apps into one app, with mixed results in my opinion.  Both companies are constantly updating their apps.  In true technological fashion, they fix one problem with their latest update, then cause two more.  This can be very frustrating as a driver.  However, you really don’t have any choice but to roll with it (pardon the pun).  Be consoled with the fact that a team of code monkeys is hard at work, fixing the mess they just created!

Getting Paid: This is one of my major beefs.  Both companies pay you by direct deposit, late Wednesday or early Thursday.  However, there is a huge difference in how they let you know how much money you are owed.  Uber lets you know immediately after each ride how much money you just made.

Lyft also lets you know, but they do so in what I like to call “Lyft Money”.  You see, there are three different amounts that Lyft uses.  The first amount is the fare the rider is charged on the rider app.  The second figure is the fare that pops up on the driver side of the app when the ride is complete.  But is that how much money you just made?  Of course not!  Lyft still has to take a cut out of that amount.

Good luck finding out what you actually made on your last ride!  To find out that amount, wait until the next day for your Daily Driver Summary email.  This will give you all sorts of info about your previous day, EXCEPT HOW MUCH MONEY YOU MADE!  For that, you will need to click on a link in their email, then logon to their website and maybe you will find it there!  Honestly, I have no idea why Lyft Drivers haven’t gone on strike over this one issue alone!  Can you tell this gets me a little steamed?

Pickup Times: This is one of the biggest decisions you will make as a driver.  What is the furthest distance, in minutes, you will drive to pick up a rider?  I use the pickup time of 15 minutes.  That means the amount of time I accept to pick up a rider is usually no more than 15 minutes.

After you accept the request, Google Maps (or another map app) will update the pickup time with the current traffic conditions.  This means the time to pick up Tiffany at the Mall just went from 15 to 18 minutes.  Not bad if Tiffany lives 30 minutes away from the Mall, but more than likely, she lives 5 to 10 minutes away.  This is the risk you run as a driver.  In order to maximize your profits, try to keep your pickup times to 15 minutes or less.  More riders equals more money!

Map Apps: This brings me to your most important new partner in your driving career, the Navigation App.  Most drivers use Google Maps or Waze.  I prefer Google Maps.  It comes as a pre-installed app on Android Phones.  However, it may not come pre-installed on an iPhone.  If not, it can be downloaded for free from iTunes.

Google Maps will drive you crazy at times, but for the most part, it is very reliable.  In order to use this app effectively, be sure to learn as much as you can about it.  Practice using it whenever you are driving yourself around town.  Put in the address for your destination and use the map to get there.  Practice muting the audio directions.  Touch the time estimate at the bottom of the screen for turn by turn directions.  This will show you the next turn and give you a better idea of where you are going.  Learn this app backwards and forwards and you will be a much more confident driver!

Also, consider getting a phone mount, so you can have the map app in easy view while you are driving.  I use Clever Grip which attaches directly to the vent in the dashboard for easy viewing.

Potty Breaks: This is a major concern for people in the 55 – 65 age group.  Especially us guys.  I drink one large cup of coffee in the morning before driving.  I go to the bathroom twice before leaving the house and there’s a good chance I will still have to find a pit stop while I am out driving.  I know, too much information.  However, this is a major concern for us mature drivers.  Trust me, you don’t want to be on a run to the airport with an extreme personal problem going on.  I speak from experience!

The solution: fast food restaurants.  McDonald’s, Burger King, Tim Horton’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts can save your life.  Contrary to popular belief, not every gas station will let you use their restroom.  I found out that one the hard way!  Keep an eye out for these restaurants while you’re on the road and you can head off trouble before it starts!

Well, that’s it for now.  I have given you a lot to absorb and there’s much more to learn.  I will cover more of those items in a future post, but for now those are the basics.  If you have a question that I haven’t covered, please feel free to send me an email at

Until next time, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Side Hustle: Uber & Lyft

Is driving for Uber or Lyft right for you?

woman in car on phone with driver
Uber & Lyft

By Jerry Lambert

Thank you for checking out The Brown Parachute Club.  This week’s topic is the Side Hustle: Uber & Lyft.

If you haven’t heard of Uber and the lesser known Lyft, they are ridesharing services that have exploded in popularity over the past 5 years.  How they work is relatively simple.  The passengers install an app on their smartphone that enables them to request a ride.  The GPS in their smartphone allows them to pinpoint their location for the driver.  The driver has an app that pings when there is a rider in his area who needs a ride.  It’s that simple.

The great news about these services is that they are always looking for new drivers.  Uber is the more popular of the two services, but Lyft is more popular in certain cities.  The really great news is that you can apply to drive for both of them!  Even greater news is that you can set your own schedule.  You drive when you want to earn some extra money, period.  You don’t have to drive the “Drunkmobile” in the wee hours of the morning.  That can be profitable.  However, the late hours, along with the possibility of having your vehicle’s interior redecorated with late-night nachos and beer, is a turn off for many drivers.  I have found if you drive during the morning and evening rush hours (6am-9am & 4am-7pm) you can still do quite well.

You can apply online using your PC.  Just click on the following link for the company you want to apply to: Uber or Lyft.  You will also need to launch Google Play or Amazon on your smartphone, to install the Driver app for Uber, and the combined Rider / Driver app for Lyft.  You do not need a Commercial Driver License in order to drive for Uber and Lyft.

In order to drive for Uber, your car has to be 10 years old or less and with Lyft it has to be 12 years old or less.  Uber requires you to take your car to your mechanic and have him fill out the Vehicle Inspection Form and you send it to Uber.  Lyft takes a different route.  You are contacted by a “Mentor”, who walks you through the app and the basics of picking up and dropping off your rider.  The Mentor then inspects your car and takes a picture of you and your car for the Lyft Rider app.  This way people will recognize you and your car when you arrive.

For Uber and Lyft, the issue of safety is a major concern for both riders and drivers.  The rideshare system works because of the information that is available to the companies.  From the passenger side, the rider’s home address, along with billing information is put into the app, so the rider can be picked up and automatically billed for rides.  From the driver side, each potential driver is certified with a background check that reveals any red flags that the companies need to be concerned about.

Once you’re approved by one or both companies, you’re ready to hit the road!  There is something very exciting about getting your first ping from Uber or Lyft!  You are now one of the many drivers who are making their own hours and making great money by driving for these companies.  Now for the bad news.  You are NOT a cab driver!  You cannot expect the kind of money a cabbie makes during a 2-3 hour shift.  Because Uber and Lyft provide an alternative to taking a cab, they charge their passengers less and therefore you will make less.

The good news is that most people who take advantage of these services are very nice folks and very appreciative that Uber and Lyft are available in their areas.  Whether you currently have a full-time job or not, I recommend that anyone looking to earn some extra money should consider becoming a driver.  This is a great, low-hassle way to earn money.  I chose to write about this Side Hustle first because it is easy to get started and you can be earning money relatively quickly.  This is a major consideration when you have been given The Brown Parachute.  It’s pretty depressing when I think of all the money I could have made driving for Uber and Lyft, if I had just signed up right away when I was laid off.  Instead, I went through Plans A, B, and C to replace my income, when I should have been bringing in money every week with Uber and Lyft.

There is certainly a hit to your pride when you go from managing the data backup operations for a major law firm, to driving Tiffany up to the Mall.  However, there is no shame in honest work.  Also, I have found that driving can become “Networking on Wheels”.  I got the idea for this blog while driving and talking with one of my riders.  I almost forgot to tell you the best part.  As I mentioned before, both companies are always looking for new drivers, and this is where you can cash in.  If you recruit a new driver, and they drive the required number of rides in the first month, you get a Referral Bonus that can be $200 or more!  This offer changes frequently, so be sure to check it out with each company once you sign up.

Also, both companies offer rewards programs for their drivers that offer special discounts.  These are usually automobile related, but there are also other special deals that are worth looking into.  Once you have racked up the required number of rides, many of these deals are “unlocked”.

There are also many resources out there to help you find out more about ridesharing, and whether it is right for you.  One of the first websites I found was The Rideshare Guy.  This is written by a guy named Harry Campbell.  He used to be an engineer, now he blogs about Uber and Lyft and other available services.  It’s a great website and definitely worth checking out.  YouTube has a lot of videos detailing the pros and cons of driving as well.  You will definitely want to watch some of those videos, to see if driving is right for you.

Well, that’s it.  I plan on following up this article with a list of what I have learned as a driver.  What to do and what not to do.  It should help any newbies to learn the ropes much faster.  If you decide that you want to give driving a try, please click on the Uber or Lyft names below to sign up.  Also, click on The Rideshare Guy name below to go directly to his website.

Until next time, may your parachute fully deploy and may you have a soft landing!



The Rideshare Guy